by Cynthia Bond
Abandon hope, all ye who enter this 330 page gut-punch, magical unfurling, literary analysis in waiting that is known simply as Ruby. And yet, for as bleak as the atmosphere of Ruby gets, hope is its strongest weapon in the story and on the reader.
Ruby is a “Oprah’s Book Club 2.0” selection, and like most of her selections, there is a running theme of the strength in womanhood. But Ruby is a whole lot more than a story about African-American history and angst. Ruby is real, visceral and beautifully tragic…and also (definitely) not for the faint of heart.
Ruby tells the story of the 1950’s town of Liberty, Texas, where our title character is a beautiful girl who is pushed by violence and fear to New York. With the death of a childhood friend, Ruby is pulled back into the small town weave that wants to annihilate everything she is and stands for. Her only ally to pull her up from rock bottom is a simple man, Ephram, who is dominated by his Bible-thumping sister and ghosts of his past. These characters push and pull on each other in a heart-wrenching dance, sending sparks as they meet and impacting those around them like dominoes.
Cynthia Bond’s Ruby is ripe with material for literary analysis. It will be no great shock when this book makes it to the course list for college English classes. For a first novel, this work is stunning. The comparison of Bond’s writing in Ruby to those of Toni Morrison’s Sula and The Bluest Eye are well founded. Morrison’s use of magical realism to create a compelling story are in Ruby, and with the volume turned past ten so that they sure do resonate. This book makes you feel. It’s a book you want to have discussion about.
I get a little SPOILER-Y from this point on, so feel free to stop here and grab Ruby before you go further.
I loved the symbolism of this book. Using supernatural means to express things that otherwise wouldn’t be as powerful is Bond’s forte. We come to find that the villain of the work is a Reverend (oh the symbolism!), and religion is definitely up for scrutiny as the characters encounter it time and time again in their lives. The exploration of the loss of black innocence in the black man’s quest for equality/power over white privilege/black women/self deserves so much more discussion than mere mention in this review. The line between “good men” and the bad ones that Bond calls “wolves” is a blurry one. It’s all relevant for not only this reading, but for practical knowledge. As the reader, I felt that I was learning so much by reading this work.
For me, Ruby didn’t become a five-star read until the last two emotional and intense chapters. After reading these, there was no question that it’s a keeper to literary contribution. I think that having the comparison to Toni Morrison’s work was helpful in making sense of Ruby, but with this prior schema in tow, it’s one I would recommend to everyone.
Interested? Buy it from Penguin Random House
More info on this author at: Cynthia Bond
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.